The Dinner in Honour of Visiting American Senators, Kuala Lumpur, 17 August 1993

Senator Cohen,

Senator Pressler,

Senator Brown,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

It gives us tremendous pleasure to be hosts tonight to three very distinguished friends from the United States Senate. We are indeed highly appreciative of your special efforts to enhance the relations between our countries. For us, the United States has been, and will remain well into the foreseeable future, an important partner, not only as far as trade is concerned, but also in the current process of reshaping the global community. We cannot overemphasize the fact that the world has undergone a major transformation during the last few years. The ending of the Cold War has been like the opening of Pandora's box. For some, it has brought greater suffering and anxiety than ever before. Yet, it equally true that it has also brought for humanity as a whole a lot of hope for a future based on mutual respect between peoples and nations. In a world no longer divided by ideological prejudices, we can expect to build new bridges of understanding and construct new structures for collaboration.

In the context of the new global realities, it is essential that we take a long hard look at some of our institutions and organizations for international and multilateral cooperation. Despite their limitations, they have served humanity well for the better part of this century. The establishement of the United Nations and other multilateral agencies at the conclusion of the Second World War was an important milestone in the history of the world. The United States played a crucial role in this. Nevertheless, the rapid changes occuring before us today require a no less crucial act of rebuilding. Since the world is now more integrated and interdependent, the process of remaking the world requires greater efforts at mutual understanding.

Malaysia and our partners in Asean certainly want to contribute to this process. We in this region have no lesser potential than any other region for conflict and dispute among ourselves. Yet, for the last three decades, we have collectively striven to maintain regional peace and harmony. Now we are are ready to forge an even larger regional order through the expansion of Asean and the establishment of the East Asia Economic Caucus.

We are fully aware of the forces towards globalization. We have no intention of bucking the trend. What has enabled this region to prosper is because we have always been open. It has never entered our minds for the EAEC to form an exclusive bloc, for that would be suicidal on our part. But we need the EAEC as a vehicle to accelerate regional integration. However, despite our consistent explanations, the misunderstanding regarding our position has persisted.

While the concerns of our time have been largely dominated by economics, it is indeed refreshing to have a poet among us. Those who gave spent some time as public men will realize the difficulty of remaining true to oneself under the harsh regime of public expectations. One cannot but agree with the great contemporary Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz, so aptly quoted by Senator Cohen in his own volume of poetry, "A Baker's Nickel": "The purpose of poetry is to remind us how difficult it is to remain just one person."

Poetry and art, I believe, brings us closer to what is truly human within ourselves. Doubtless, in our joint efforts to reshape or remake the world for a better future, politicians, statesmen, captains of industry, coming from different cultures and traditions, will need to learn and listen to one another as well as from those who can truly reveal us to ourselves through the medium of great art. This would not possible unless we have some measure of humility within ourselves. The words of the American born poet, T.S. Eliotm, are particularly pertinent to us today: "The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless."

Thank you.